Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What if Republicans and Democrats worked together?

Republicans can't cobble together enough GOP votes in the Senate to pass a law to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else. They can't even cobble together enough Senate votes to simply repeal Obamacare — a goal they've been boasting about for seven years. So the Senate's Republican leaders don't know what to do about it. They are at an impasse. Even though their party controls the House, the Senate and the White House, they can't pass legislation they've been promising for seven years.

What CAN they do?

Here's an idea: Instead of insisting on legislation that is supported only by Republican votes, what if they tried putting together legislation that could attract the requisite number of Republican AND (gasp!) Democratic votes? They'll need 51 votes, but Republicans have been able to hold onto about 47 or 48 GOP votes for whatever version of repeal-and-replace legislation they dream up. Suppose the GOP leadership approached the Democrats and asked for their support, with a willingness to compromise on some details of the health care legislation that would make the new bill palatable to conservative or moderate Democrats.

That's the way congressional legislation used to be passed. The 1964 Civil Rights Bill, the creation of the Interstate Highway system, the creation of NASA and the race to put astronauts on the moon, and the Voting Rights Act were all passed with votes from both sides of the aisle. Why not do it again?

It's possible that otherwise sympathetic Democrats will refuse to participate in any Republican deal. After all, the atmosphere has been so poisoned by harsh rhetoric that both parties are wary of any deal that might help the other side. But it's the only effective way to get legislation in the national interest passed. Democrats should have learned the dangers of partisan voting in the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the resulting nearly decade-long assault by the other party.

But bipartisan leadership and legislating has worked before. It can work again. Won't somebody give it a try?

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